Foster homes can mean the difference between life and death for a small number of deserving dogs lucky enough to secure them. These generous families play an important role in BADRAP's work with pit bull type dogs. By helping dogs that others have given up on, you're demonstrating compasison in action and showing the world that the lives of these dogs matter. When our foster home team helped the dogs from the Michael Vick case for example, the world took notice. One dog at a time, we are literally changing the landscape for this maligned breed.
Right: Jaime Allen kisses her foster boy. Photo credit: Tom Becker
Q ~ Where does BAD RAP get its foster dogs?
A ~ They come from everywhere! Some have fallen out of over-crowded shelters, some come from cruelty cases close to home or out of state. Typically, most are hours or days from euthanasia. We screen dogs carefully before placing them in foster homes. We look for stable personalities that match what we like in our own pets: gushy and affectionate, trainable and eager to please, well socialized and dog tolerant.
Q ~ How much time & effort is needed?
A ~ It depends on the dog you foster. Puppies are more work than adults, but adults generally stay in foster care longer. Most of our dogs take an average of 2-6 months to place, but some can take up to a year to find their perfect match. Since this can be a longterm project, we look for foster parents who are patient, stable and realistic about what they're getting into. You are literally changing the world one dog at a time, and change doesn't happen overnight.
Q ~ I'm afraid of getting in over my head with a dog I can't handle. Do I have to worry about this?
A ~ We're careful to match fosters with dogs that meet their skill levels. If you've never fostered before, we'll probably give you a lower energy "beginner's dog." We'll work together to decide what kind of personality would be right for your situation, and then we'll support you so you feel comfortable with your foster's progress. We want you to have a fun experience with this project. By fostering, you'll be increasing your own dog skills under the guidance of a group of people who know and love the breed, and you'll have the satisfaction of making a real difference.
Q ~ Can I foster if I have pets already?
A ~ We love when our fosters have dogs at home - well socialized, of course. Some have cats, too. Your pets will likely play a big part in helping your foster dog acclimate to life as a house pet. But no matter how well your foster gets along with your pets, we'll require that you keep them separated when you leave to ensure everybody behaves.
Q ~ How will I ever let go once I get attached?
A ~ If you get really attached and if it turns out that your home is a perfect match, you do have the option of adopting your foster dog. Most are happy to see their fosters finally go 'home' though. There's no greater joy than knowing you saved a life, then seeing that deserving dog finally get his or her very own person.
Q ~ Do I have to have experience with dogs?
A ~ No - previous breed experience is not a requirement. If you can demonstrate that you're willing to follow directions and learn new skills, we'll match you with a starter dog and give you all the support and guidance you need to enjoy your adventure together.
Q ~ I don't have much experience managing multiple dogs. How will I know what to do?
A ~ Your BADRAP Rep will help you introduce your foster dog to your resident dog(s). (S)he'll discuss multiple dog management and help you understand how to monitor play sessions. Because most of our dogs live at our Rescue Barn before they go to foster care, we're usually very famiiar with their style. Our foster homes tend to become very well-versed in canine body language, and their personal dogs usually benefit from the fun and extra socialization that comes with having a new canine playmate.
Q ~ What will be expected of me as a foster home?
A ~ Most rescued dogs have had zero training before they land in the shelters, so it's usually up to the foster home to do the work of teaching good house manners to make him more adoptable. This is no small project and includes exercising, house training, socializing and enforcing basic obedience skills. By making the foster a part of your family during his time with you, you'll help him transition seamlessly into his forever home once that perfect match is made. You'll never be alone with this work however, and will have a team of people (including your dog's representative) supporting you and working closely to help you along the way. We ask that our foster dogs attend a minimum of two Berkeley-based Pit Ed Classes per month for coaching, check ins and meet-n-greets with potential homes. Since getting the dogs ready for adoption is so involved, we prefer to work with foster homes who've have had some prior dog experience, or who have a good aptitude for learning new skills. You'll join our Volunteer Discussion Board for ongoing support and will be included in fun events around the bay area.
Right: Dora, Buzz and Bruno have mastered the 'down' command. Photo credit: Tom Becker
Q ~ Would I have to review adoption applications and do home visits, etc.?
A ~ Nope. You just focus on your foster dog's needs, and your dog's rep will handle all of the adoption details. We'll consult with you as we screen applications, however. After all, you'll ultimately know the dog better than anybody, and your input will be important during the adoption match.
Q ~ Is it possible to work full time outside the house and still foster?
A ~ Yes! Most of our adopters work full time, so your 9-5 routine will help prepare the dog for this lifestyle. If you do work long hours however, it's important that you make sure you have enough time and energy to give the dog the attention and exercise it needs when you are home.
Q ~ Who pays for the dog's care?
A ~ BAD RAP will provide a crate, collar, tag and cover vet bills. Most foster homes supply their own dog food unless they need additional help covering this expense. Dog toys, blankets and beds are often donated.
Q ~ What if I need to leave town for business or vacation?
A ~ Our network of volunteers chips in to petsit the group's foster dogs as the need comes up. In some cases, dogs come back to the Rescue Barn during their foster parent's vacations.
Q ~ How do I get started?
A ~ Contact our Foster Home Coordinator for a Questionnaire to help us get to know you. Once you fill it out, we'll meet you in Pit Ed class so you can see our foster homes in action. If you're ready, we'll do a home visit and start a shelter search for a good candidate that matches your household. We might have one in mind already, or we may take a few weeks to find for the perfect one. Thank you for considering being a foster parent with us!
Tom MacMahon and his partner Mike fostered Kelly. He describes their experience: Why do you do it?
The BR Foster program allowed me to satisfy both my desire to have and enjoy a second dog and to help this breed that I have come to be so connected with. I watched BADRAP for a few years prior to fostering and was made aware of the many wonderful dogs that die because there simply wasn't anyone who would offer them a home until their perfect family could find them. Such a simple act for many people that has a huge impact and I couldn't not do it.
What's the hardest part?
The pee spots and chewed shoes, but you quickly forget those when your foster dog leaves your house with their new family. You feel a combination of sadness and pride. I am fostering my third dog and letting them go isn't getting easier, you want to adopt each one, but I have saved three dogs and made three families very happy. I cry when each one leaves but know that keeping my home open for foster dogs saves their lives and will continue to do this as long as I can.
Do you feel supported by BR?
Completely!! The people involved in BR are so devoted to these dogs. Every foster has a very large extended family that thinks of every dog in BR as their own.
How did it work out?
Kelly was our first foster who lived with us for 10 months. She came to us just days away from death due to depression, neglect, and malnutrition. She was taken out of the shelter simply so she would have a comfortable place to die. But once she saw this opportunity for a new life she made other plans and became one of the most energetic and life-loving dogs. What a transformation!! She provided our home with such energy and fun we knew only a very special home would meet Kelly's needs. Eventually, a very lively and outdoor oriented couple came forward who recognized that Kelly was perfect for them. We agreed. The day that Kelly left for her new home, our dog, Huey, watched her go and sat at the front gate for an hour looking for her. We felt the same way. But that sadness is replaced with a satisfaction as you reflect on your foster's growth from their first day with you to their adoption and you can't wait to start over again.